Poet, Teacher, Writer, Editor

     Welcome to my web site.  In various capacities, I'm a poet, teacher, writer, and editor based in western Wisconsin near the Twin Cities.  My work is strongly rooted here, so in my poems you'll meet some of the people, animals, birds, flowers, and trees I encounter day to day, not least the wonderfully named kinnickinnic, or red osier dogwood or red willow, so plentiful in these parts.  I like the symbolism of kinnickinnic, so ready to root from a cutting that the Indians saw it as an emblem of resurrection.

     I've kept this site simple for easy navigation.  "About" will fill you in on a little biographical background.  "Poems" showcases a few poems with which I've been particularly happy over the years.  I'm using the "Blog" section to air occasional essays on literature, culture, and current affairs.  "Publications" provides a brief bibliography of my published work.  "Contact" tells you how to get in touch with me.  (I always welcome comments by readers, not to mention invitations to read or teach.)  And this home page does double duty as a calendar for upcoming events.  I hope you'll have as enjoyable a time glancing around this site as I've had putting it together. 


Oklahoma, 2017, International Times (UK), http://internationaltimes.it/oklahoma-2017/

New poem commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' classic:
Sergeant Pepper Summer, International Times (UK), http://internationaltimes.it/sergeant-pepper-summer/

For the Turtles, and Us, International Times (UK), http://internationaltimes.it/for-the-turtles-and-us/

The Clown of Aleppo, International Times (UK) http://internationaltimes.it/the-clown-of-aleppo/


Saturday, August 4,  Reading by Thomas R. Smith and Jude Nutter, Moon Palace Books, 3032 Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, 4:00 pm.  Free.  Information 612/454-0455.

Sunday, December 9, Tribute to John Lennon and the Beatles, Thomas R. Smith and the Fab 3 + 3, River Falls Public Library, River Falls, WI, 1:30 p.m.  Free.

Summer Class Offerings at the Loft Literary Center:

Beautiful Time:  A Class for Poets Age 55 and Up (6 weeks)
Wednesdays, 6 - 8 p.m., June 20 - August 1
This class is for people 55 and older, both experienced poets and those who would like to try poetry as a new or renewed direction as they move toward elder status.  Taking the work of master poets such as Stanley Kunitz, Wislawa Szymborska, W. S. Merwin, and Lucille Clifton as our models, we'll explore the emotional "landscape" of the older poet and balance the unavoidable losses of aging against its estimable gains.  We'll examine our own attitudes, some of them culturally received, that sometimes hold us in the past instead of letting us move into the future, and discuss the role of the adult we are when writing from the vast store of memory that reaches back to childhood.  We'll attend to honestly mourning the losses of aging, given expression by the poem of elegy, while celebrating possibilities for wisdom and even creative foolery that age can also bring.  We will also discuss ways to guard against being limited by ageist assumptions about older people and maintain an openness to change and a generosity toward the future.  Through it all we will emphasize a view of the poet as someone who manages to keep a youthful inner vibrancy in spite of the inevitabilities of aging, finding language to explore the difficulties and glories of the current moment.  As Czeslaw Milosz said of aging, "We have a beautiful time / As long as time is time at all."  Small copy fee.  To register:  https://www.loft.org/shop/product_detail/2/classes/1441/beautiful_time_a_class_for_poets_age_55_and_up/

Reading for Writers:  Another Side of Mary Oliver (1 session)
August 11, 9 a.m. - noon
Mary Oliver is justly celebrated as America's foremost living nature poet.  Yet a lesser known but crucial side of her work rigorously registers her response to the human world and the demands of personal and national morality and integrity in our time.  This half-day class explores, through the lens of her poetry, Oliver's achievement not only in surviving but growing as a person and artist into her ninth decade.  We will look at her early struggles with self-definition in an abusive family situation, and touch on some of the mentors and literary models who helped her, as she has said recently, save her own life through a dedication to poetry.  We'll watch her grappling with the geopolitical cruelties of war, poverty and injustice in concert with her attempts at coming to terms with the impersonal cycles of life and death of the natural world.  Finally we'll discover how she accommodates encroaching age and the emotional crisis of a long-time partner's death.  Throughout, we'll note a growing self-acceptance and openness to experience in Oliver's poetic conversation with the world, enlarging our view of her work and how it fits into a fulfilled human life.  Small copy fee.  To register:  https://www.loft.org/shop/product_detail/2/classes/1468/reading_for_writers_another_side_of_mary_oliver/ 

Now Available:  THE GLORY

Hear Garrison Keillor read "Advent Dawn" from The Glory on the December 24, 2015 episode of public radio's The Writer's Almanac at http://writersalmanac.org/episodes/20151224/

Read what some advance readers of this new collection have written:

Thomas R. Smith's new collection, The Glory, serves many glories--those of the natural world, of the American democratic dream, and of various individuals who do us all credit.  Yet, while remaining celebratory, Smith always looks unblinkingly at human history, "the thuggishness of ourselves," reminding us how we are "gravely / and fairly judged" by the wild creatures who encounter us warily.  While ranging from the micro -- an "insect hum" -- to the macro -- "the spill of the Milky Way" -- and in between invoking such icons as Woody Guthrie, Rachel Carson, and Nelson Mandela, Smith always exemplifies Simone Weil's claim that paying attention is the highest form of prayer -- his steady and reverent attentiveness to the world in which he finds himself is the armature of this book.  And attention includes engagement: the Sixties play a role here as background for poems of contemporary civic activism that confirm the personal as political and vice-versa.  When Smith compares the sun's rising to the birth of a child and wonders "what gift" to bring him, the reader knows the gift has already been delivered, Smith's poetry itself.  Like the "music-house" for shelter one poem speaks of, Smith offers us for shelter his poetry-house, solidly built, roomy, and full of treasures.
                --Philip Dacey, author of Church of the Adagio

This substantial, wide-ranging book is an inspiration and a glory. The boy who carried the news to the sick, the housebound and the lonely was the messenger Mercury, his wings a single-speed Schwinn bike. In his maturity Smith brings that life-saving news to us that can only be found in poetry. The intervening years have done their work well in him: "I am better for living," he writes, having discovered the reverence youth had kept hidden from himself in his heart. Over and over in these poems we discover with Smith one version and then another of that reverence. We are made aware in them, too, of those years of development that were the chrysalis "in which he surrenders / to the mysterious fluidity by which / creatures weary of creeping form their wings." In this collection Smith has fully taken wing.
                --Joe Paddock, author of Circle of Stones

These poems are the salt of the earth -- they come from pure, simple roots, natural-born and straight-shooting.  Thomas R. Smith is a grown-up, in-your-face, deeply tender poet who is not afraid to sing of his reverence and love for family, friends, and country -- not afraid to express his kinship with animals, insects and plants -- and not afraid to write about political, cultural and environmental figures, naming both heroes and villains, enemies and compatriots.  Smith moves from early memories of life in a small Midwestern town through decades of seeking, losing, and finding purpose and meaning in his life.  He accepts and also resists defeat, the sad song that underlies many of the dreams he cherished as a younger man.  He ultimately succeeds in his efforts to "embrace every sunset given us" as he faces both the tragic truth and glory of existence.
                --Freya Manfred, author of Speak, Mother

And watch for Windy Day at Kabekona: New and Selected Prose Poems, forthcoming from White Pine Press, Fall 2018.

You can order The Glory and other books by Thomas R. Smith from Red Dragonfly Press at this address:  www.reddragonflypress.org/smith.html

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